Every year in the early autumn, my elementary students harvest the sweet potatoes from their school gardens. I’ve always seen the finished product spread out on the floor, but this year I made sure that I was able to jump in and experience it for myself. I had to get to Kaminishi a half hour earlier, on a Monday no less, but I suppose that such torment was unavoidable in the pursuit of an experience.
Once we had a pep talk and instructional from Mrs. Yasmashima, we took our buckets and spades and wasted no time in digging for the treasure. Wherever the plant stems poked out of the ground is where we would scrape the soil away, just a bit at a time. It was sort of an archaeological excavation, since we didn’t want to mar the spuds with our spades.
I was feeling a bit old, and let a stiff back slow me down, but mostly I was just happy to get a chance at it. The students were all really excited and constantly competing to find the largest one. I don’t think that we will eclipse last year’s 2.2 kilogram monstrosity, but there were some pretty impressive ones that we unearthed.
As things were drawing to a close, the teachers went through with proper shovels to churn the earth and make sure that we didn’t miss any. We did, of course. After a group photo where we fist pumped our favorite potato into the air and shouted “DAI – SEI – KO!” (Great Success), then brought them inside the school to lay out for a couple weeks. While I don’t understand the science behind this at all, I am told that they will become more delicious through this process.
Overall, I’m really glad that I made the sleep sacrifice to participate in the event. While simple, it was one of those things that they do all across Japan and a chance for me to try something new. I don’t know anyone who has dug up any of these root vegetables at home, so I know that my world has been expanded just a bit more. Now, I just have to look forward to eating them as yakiimo, which is when they wrap them in newspaper and tin foil and then toss them into a fire pit. After a bit they become a soft, delicious, and a perfect carb loaded snack.
I’d say we made quite a haul, 310 in total. The largest was just over a kilogram.